Here's where to treat the bunny right
Sierra Lodestar 03/27/13

Foothill Flavors
Where to Treat the Bunny Right
Antoinette May Herndon

Does it seem like only yesterday that you took down the Christmas tree? (For me, it practically was.) Now here comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail. What’s he carrying? A basket, of course, and it’s brimming with restaurant news: exactly which bistro is serving what for Easter and exactly how much those goodies are going to cost you.

As the anchor establishment of a Gold Rush village, Murphys Hotel can always be counted on to offer something special when holidays roll around. Oh, the marvelous Christmas dinners we’ve enjoyed there! But with bunny day upon us, the hotel is busily planning an Easter brunch this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Offerings will include an omelette station, as well as Eggs Benedict and a variety of quiches and fruit blintzes, smoked salmon and bagels, honey baked ham, roast prime rib, baked chicken pasta, fruit and cheese, Quiona salad and broccoli salad, fruit, cheese, and homemade pastries.

Besides champagne, juice, coffee and tea, there’s a full bar. The price is $6.95 for younger guests, $12.95 for seven to twelve year olds and $29.85 for adults.

Murphys Hotel is registered as a California Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While making one’s own dining history, its an added plus to imagine habitués of the past— Mark Twain, Black Bart, Henry Ward Beecher, John Jacob Aster, Ulysses S. Grant and J.P. Morgan—all tucking into a Sunday treat.

With Easter centered around resurrection, there’s always a chance of a floating Flo sighting at the National Hotel in Jamestown. It’s not surprising that a hotel with a history like the National’s would attract ghosts. Built in 1859, the National has enjoyed a lively history. The hotel was raided several times during Prohibition and prostitution was rampant into the late 1930s. Slot machines weren’t removed until 1949.

Yet even if Flo doesn’t materialize, Easter dinner at the National will be a treat to remember. The National has received Triple A’s 3-star Diamond Award for the past 30 years.

From nine a.m. to three p.m. on Sunday the hotel will offer an all you can eat buffet that includes such favorites as baked brie, escargot vin blanc, filet mignon, brandy apple pork and apricot bonbons. Sound delicious? I guess! The price is $25 per person.

If I said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: the Imperial Hotel is the most romantic eatery in three counties. Call it frontier opulence. They might not be natural go- togethers, but Mary Ann and Jim McCamant have managed to pull it off with exposed brick, silk hangings and vivid paintings. Whimsy is the operative word at the

Imperial and it makes for a rich dining experience.

Step back in time to 1879 when the Gold Rush was in full swing and Amador City a bustling mining town. Then settle into an Easter breakfast menu that includes such delicacies as blueberry pecan French toast, ham and asparagus strata and Croque Monsieur (a brioche toast with melted gruyere, prosciutto, frisee and egg). The price for either of the three treats is $12.

For an afternoon dinner, consider baked ham (S16), lamb chops ($21), or duck breast ($19) Each entre will be served with baby spinach, fresh asparagus, snap peas and a baguette. Beverages will include mimosas, bloody Marys, orange margueritas or ramos fizzes at $6 each.

The Imperial staff will serve their Easter feast from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

If you can’t manage Italy for spring break, consider Crusco’s in Angels Camp. Think rich burgundy and plum napery, dark wood chairs and tables, and a mural of Venice on the wall. Background music is always a mood builder. Imagine Italy’s favorite son belting out “My Way,” arias from grand opera, or dreamy mandolins.

Come Sunday you’ll recognize all Crusco’s signature dishes on the menu but will also discover two Easter specialties: slow-braised osso bucco over a bed of soft polenta and sea food crepes. Both are priced at $21. Dinner will be served from 5 p.m. until 8.

People have been dining at the Leger Hotel for more than 150 years. Not only is the Gold Rush inn party central in Mokelumne Hill, it also hosts book conferences, seminars, author signings and rock bands.

Come Sunday morning the hotel will be reinvent its Easter tradition. Chef Chuck Swisher has planned a buffet with five different food stations each with five different offerings. Consider oysters on the half shell, garlic pepper shrimp, or steamed mussels. Happily, you won’t have to choose one over the other. You can have any or all of them plus much more.

Best yet, if the Big Bunny smiles at us, the balcony will be open at the Leger. Easter dinner will be served from 10:30 a.m. to l p.m. The price is $29.95 for adults and $11.95 for children six to twelve with no charge for five year olds and younger.

Everybody knows Frank’s Café. It’s the town kitchen not only for Mokelumne Hill residents but for everyone traversing the intersection of highways 49 and 26. This is where people come to gossip, plan, organize, see, be seen and especially to eat.

So, expect an especially lively Easter morning when Fran and Angie Giourousis and their large and lively clan expand the menu to offer two holiday specials. Prime rib is planned for $15.95 and baked ham for $10.95. Both entrees will be served with soup, salad, vegetables and a choice of

fries, baked or mashed potatoes, topped off by bread pudding.

Angie’s signature dish is Eggplant Moussaka. She doesn’t serve it at the restaurant but will make it for private parties. I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity several times. It’s always a great hit and Charles and I cherish what ever leftovers remain.

I’ve made moussaka myself a few times using Angie’s recipe. Take my word, it’s labor intensive but awfully good—a marvelous dish to serve family or friends if you’re planning on enjoying the Easter holiday at home.

So by popular demand, here’s an heirloom recipe to tuck into your bunny basket.


1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil 1 1/2 pounds chopped lamb 2 tablespoons chopped onions 1 1/2 cups white wine 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and strained 2 tablespoons chopped parsley Salt and pepper to taste 3 pounds egg plant Oil for frying l cup bread crumbs 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2-3 tablespoons melted butter

Place half the butter or oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped meat and onions. Stir to crumble the meat; brown. Add the wine, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquids are absorbed. Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut into thin slices. Fry in the remaining butter, adding oil if needed. Place the fried eggplant slices on a platter.

Prepare the béchamel.


8 tablespoons butter 10-12 tablespoons flour 4 cups milk, scalded 2 egg yolks Salt and pepper to taste

Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to medium low and continue simmering until the flour has softened, 10 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange half of the eggplant slices in even rows in a medium-size baking pan. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Add half of the cheese to the chopped meat. Mixing it in well; spread this on top of the eggplant.

Add another layer of eggplant, then cover with the béchamel. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, then the remaining bread crumbs. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned. Serves 6.

VITALS: Murphys Hotel, 457 Main St., Murphys. Phone: 728-3444. National Hotel, 18183 Main Street, Jamestown. Phone: 984-3446 Imperial Hotel, 14202 Old Highway 49, Amador City. Phone: 267-9172. Crusco’s Ristorante, 1240 South Main. Phone: Phone: 736-1400 Hotel Leger, 8304 Main St., Mokelumne Hill. Phone: 286-1401 Frank’s Café, : 8085 Highway 26, at Highway 49, Mokelumne Hill. Phone: 286-1448.