Valentine's Day -- It's time for romance at the table
Sierra Lodestar 02/06/13


Isn't it Romantic: Valentine's Day Winners

By Antoinette May Herndon

Yikes! Hearts and flowers hearts season is upon us. Expect proposals (or at least propositions) to be bandied. Valentine’s Day is so special and only seven planning days remain. Of course, you’ll want to make the most of this lovey-dovey occasion. But how and where? Which restaurant will you choose? Our area is truly a Mother Lode of good restaurants, but good just doesn’t cut it on Valentine’s Day. A bistro must also be romantic. Here are a few of my own amorous choices, let’s hear about yours. For a breakfast that borders on passionate, the Amador Café & Bakery simply cannot be beat. Imagine a sophisticated bistro tucked away in a tiny mountain village and that would be Pioneer’s hidden treasure. The Amador Café & Bakery is capital E elegant. Just contemplate for a minute the romance potential of eating breakfast beneath the sparkling glow of crystal chandeliers. Think Chinese chairs of faux bamboo, butcher block tables polished to a silky sheen, cooking utensils stashed in a walnut dresser—an antique walnut dresser. Besides being a graduate of the Newport Design Institute, localite Robert Dasch is a great cook. Just try his French Toast Combo. When I think of a romantic lunch, Thomi’s in Sutter Creek invariably comes to mind. Sitting in that intimate grotto facing out on historic highway 49, one can easily envision stage coaches rounding the bend and gold panners gambling away their stakes in rinky-dink saloons. What an inspiring venue in which to make your own history! Just don’t forget to pay homage to early California by ordering Thomi’s Spanish style eggs—a build your own taco bonanza with cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, diced tomato, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, green onion, pinto beans and salsa served

with corn tortillas.

Just down the street is Susan’s Place, another favourite. After some 11 years of dining there, I can attest that the restaurant continues to fulfill it’s promise. Whatever you’re selling, Susan’s Place is a deal maker. Trailing greenery and twinkling lights lend a fairyland quality to the bistro that’s intimate and inviting, seductive and opulent. And then there’s the food. Try the Greek salad with grilled Alaskan salmon. Imagine baby greens, English cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and Kalamata olives—lots of Kalamata olives—tossed with Susan’s signature garlic and basil vinaigrette dressing and sprinkled with feta crumbles.

Yes, Baby, its cold outside. That’s why it such fun to go to The Rock in Twain Harte. Their massive rock fireplace is very inviting. The cozy retreat serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I find the latter especially fun. The Rock, like Twain Harte itself, has a mystique all its own—part history, part geography, part natural charisma. The portions are huge at The Rock. Couples frequently share portions. That’s kind of intimate; romantic, wouldn’t you say? Try the Smokehouse Sampler—smoked brisket, chicken, baby back ribs and Andouille sausage.

I had the all time best chocolate cake of my life at The Rock,. It was a diet buster if there ever was one, but isn’t Valentine’s Day a time to throw caution to the winds? And finally, Amador City’s Imperial Hotel may just be the most romantic eatery in three counties. . The Imperial’s tiny bar—the first thing one notices—is a gem, straight from central casting. It doesn’t tale much imagination to conjure up images of John Wayne, Kirk Douglas or Robert Mitchum, slouchy hats, sexy grins and six guns always at the ready. But, take my word for it, this is a real bar. There’s nothing day dreamy about the drinks dispensed at the Imperial.

The adjoining dining room is equally tempting. Call it frontier opulence. Jim and Mary Ann McCamant have achieved the seemingly impossible with exposed brick, silk hangings and vivid paintings. Whimsy is the operative word and it makes for a fun evening.

Try the wild white Mexican shrimp rubbed with chlli and ginger in a lemon sauce. It’s sure to put you in a Viognier kind of mood. Or what about the pumpkin ravioli with pinot noir

Do you know how foodie Joel Fleischman described pinot in “Vanity Fair”? His words are too good not to share. Joel called pinot noir “the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, it makes the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”

Kind of puts you in the mood for Valentine’s Day, doesn’t it?

VITALS: THE AMADOR CAFE & BAKERY, 26590 Hwy., 88 #3 in Pioneer. Phone: 295-7794. THOMI’S COFFEE AND EATERY, 40 Hanford, Sutter Creek. Phone: 267- 1108. SUSAN’S PLACE, 15 Eureka St., Sutter Creek. Phone: 267-0945.

THE ROCK, 23068 Fuller Rd, Twain Harte. Phone: 585-2080.

Of course there other romantic possibilities like dinner in Dungeon at the Leger in Mokelumne Hill (286-1401) or pizza in the vault at Pizza Plus in Sutter Creek (267-1900). Taste in Plymouth (245-3463) , Christopher’s in Sonora (533-2600), V Restaurant & Bar in Murphys (728- 0107) are sure fire hits as our the most recent additions, Simply Delicious in Arnold (795-4578) and the National Hotel in Jackson (223-0500). Reservations are strongly recommended for all.


Antique elegance adds to the fun of breakfast at the Amador Café & Bakery.

The Imperial Hotel in Amador City has an old west bar right out of central casting.

The Rock in Twain Harte has a German hunting lodge feel to it.