Cravings: Why Even Try to Fight?
By Antoinette May Herndon
Cravings: intense and prolonged desires; yearnings or appetites.
That’s how Webster defines those wild urges that sometimes sweep over us. For instance, when we simply have to have something good to eat. Well, not merely good—great.
Maybe even better than great—a hotdog or hamburger can be great at just the right time, eaten at just the right place. But maybe we want a want a little more than that.
That’s exactly how Charles and I felt the other evening as we headed down the road to Ione to check out a newly opened restaurant said to be garnering rave reviews. As if by some mysterious design, the new place just happened to be named Cravings.
It’s fun to be the first kids on the block to discover something fresh and innovative. Cravings surely fills that bill, a newborn —barely three months old.
First off, the setting couldn’t be more appealing for a new business. The town of Ione is so pretty. One of the oldest foothill cities, the tiny enclave reaches back to the exciting days of yesteryear. Even before the Gold Rush, Ione functioned as a trading post.
Today, it’s perfect for strolling. Think authentic pioneer architecture, charming, well-tended shops and vintage houses. You can almost hear the clip! clop! of horses’ hoofs, the jubilant cries of fortunate Argonauts striking it rich.
No question but those lucky so-in-sos would have headed straight for the Ione Hotel, current home of the town’s debut restaurant, Cravings.
Gold Country since 1849, the Ione Hotel was built to house miners and serve as a stagecoach depot for supplies.
Twice devastated by fire, the venerable hostelry has risen phoenix-like. Today, with its sweeping staircase, crystal chandeliers and gleaming mahogany wainscoting, the Ione is a true showplace.
Everything old is new again, but thanks to restaurateurs, Chuck Swisher and Ian Beharry, there’s much more than ambience and history dispensed at their dining spot. Think cutting edge culinary creations and presentation.
Chef Swisher, an 18-year veteran in the food industry, draws on several solid resources for his latest venture. Many remember him as executive chef at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club and restaurant manager at Stockton’s Golf and Country Club.
Beharry, once corporate chef of a national soup company, also brings 12 years of nationwide live entertainment experience to the table. Future plans include karaoke and dancing in the historic bar.
Together the two have already produced an innovative ambience and menu that combines both the traditional and the trendy.
Lunch selections are surprising and fun. There’s a Polenta Salad, broiled and served with beef strips, peppers, carrots and red onions. ($11) Also Balsamic Garlic Chicken—tender chicken bites fried tempura style, seasoned with secret ingredients, and then drizzled with balsamic reduction. ($9)
There are also four varieties of pizza: Margherita, funghi, prosciutto and Sicilian, each for $10.
Charles and I were delighted with our dinner selections. I could not
resist the house specialty, Chicken Scaloppini ala Marsala. The menu promised, “This dish is the one to crave.” Right on! The lightly flavored chicken breast was sautéed with mushrooms, onions and Marsala wine. ($15)
I chose creamy polenta as an accompaniment. It may just have been the best polenta I’ve ever had.
The Rib Eye Steak was Charles’s choice. It was unbelievably tender and cooked exactly to his taste. ($20)
Salads went with both our entrees, crisp and green with an unexpected sprinkling of fresh peas and corn. The veggies with our main course were fresh and tasty—lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic.
The pastries temptingly arrayed on the dessert cart are freshly made on the premises. We couldn’t resist sharing the Pavlova—an airy confections of whipped cream, meringue and berries. ($4.95)
The recent economic downturn transformed Sean Vasco, a former tractor driver into the headwaiter at Cravings. His career change was our good luck. Sean is a quick, sensitive and observant waiter.
The evening was a winner in every way. Charles and I are already craving to go back.
VITALS: Cravings is at 25 Main, Ione. 274-6366. Open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Credit cards accepted.
The Ione Hotel, home of Cravings, has been restored to its former glory.
Cravings has a historic bar that oozes history.
(back dining room and front dining room—I like the front)
The dining room at Cravings is warm and inviting.