Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eureka Street Inn, Sutter Creek

Picture perfect B&B isn't it? The real beauty of Eureka Street Inn in Sutter Creek is greater than the location or the beautifully manicured property itself, it's in the form of the hosts, Sandy and Chuck Anderson. They make one feel so welcomed and comfortable it is hard to resist adding them to your short list of people you want to spend more time with. It was 20 years between visits to Sutter Creek for me and I now find myself trying to work it into a biannual or even annual event. I imagine myself whiling away hours reading on the front porch and reading is not a pastime I plan vacations around.
The property is located a short block away from the main street which is Old Highway 49. We slept like babies here partly because the bed was so comfortable, but mostly because after 45 years, the town was successful in getting the state to go along with a bypass that routes freeway traffic away from rather than through the town. The property is intimate, only having 4 rooms to let, but each one has a unique character and any one of them would be lovely. The bathrooms were generous in size and included toiletries.
The craftsman style house was filled with craftsman style oak furniture and accessories including a smart collection of Bauer pottery; just perfect for the period theme. It was cozy on a grand scale. All guests enjoyed mingling in the living room and on the front porch, and this was only possible because of the limited number of rooms. It would not have worked half as well in a larger property.
I secretly dreaded a country B&B imagining patchwork quilts and funky mismatched furniture, like the hotel on our first foray into this area, but Eureka Street Inn was very tastefully decorated in a restrained and refined manner.
The dining room with its built in cabinetry was very comfortable to use and all guests were served breakfast there at 9:00 a.m. My traveling companion does not especially like interfacing with complete strangers, but enjoyed our stay and the breakfast conversations. All this was in part due to the excellent food. On the first morning we were served fresh fruit and yogurt in beautiful antique teacups with saucers. I regret that I did not get a photo of it, but I did manage a photo of the puff pastry encased omelet, with sausages and a lemon pound cake. On the second morning of our stay, the fruit was bananas and strawberries with a pomegranate coulis. The main dish was a tour de force of caramelized apple covered French toast with strawberries and ham. It was so moist, it was almost a bread pudding. We loved it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekend Getaway, Sutter Creek

For anyone living in the San Francisco Bay Area, a quiet weekend in the country is always appreciated. Life in the city is filled with activity, but sometimes you just need a slower pace and Sutter Creek fills the bill. Only 2 1/2 hours northeast of San Francisco, Old Highway 49 leads you through the "necklace of gold", small towns in Amador County including Jackson, Amador City, and Sutter Creek. Nearby you can find other little gems like Volcano and Plymouth.

Creek is small town America, and I do mean small, at its most quaint and appealing. Neighbors really know one another and treat visitors like welcome guests. I stopped counting the number of times I was warmly greeted by citizens on the street and not just people providing tourist services. This town is surrounded by goldmines, some even tunneling under it. Many of the stone buildings were built by Italian stone masons during the Gold Rush, while many others are Victorian Era buildings or early 20th century cottages. If charm had an aroma, this town would be reeking with it.

The photo above was taken of one of many plaques that identify Gold Rush buildings and tell a bit of local history. This one tells us that the building now housing a shop was once the Opera House, a clear indication of the importance of Sutter Creek, even if we didn't know it was epicenter of the Gold Rush. The non commercial areas of town are heavily planted with dogwood and wisteria, making Spring a perfect time to visit. Nearby Daffodil Hill, only open several weeks per year adds to the Springtime pleasures of this area. The weather in Spring is warm, but it cools down in the evening.

, no recommendation can be made for Berlotti's, perhaps the oldest of Sutter Creek's restaurants. They have remodeled, but would have been better served to revamp the menu instead. Finding nothing of real interest on their menu I ordered a warm spinach salad that was drowning in a flavorless oil, and a small pizza that was mostly poorly cooked, tough dough. The Cesar salad was also sub standard. Slow service killed any positive comment, except for the following: the bench outside the American Exchange hotel, the building that houses Berlotti's, was a nice place to sit that evening to watch the slow pace of the town.

Susan's Place on Eureka Street was a horse of a different color. Speaking of color, those lively looking salads were beautifully balanced in flavor as well as color. Chicken salad with a raspberry chipotle dressing was composed of mixed greens, tender grilled chicken breast, strawberries, pear, red onion and Feta. The grilled shrimp salad was composed of mixed greens, tomatoes, and lightly grilled shrimp with a lemon dressing. Both were in the $15 ballpark.
The rest of the menu in this Mediterranean inspired restaurant was quite unusual in the respect that you may select from a variety of different sauces for your entree, as well as side dishes, if I'm not mistaken. The next time we visit I plan to order my entree and request the "chef's choice" for the variables.